Compton rejects plan to lay off 91 employees, but fails to pass a budget
The Compton City Council has rejected a budget that would cut nearly one-third of the city's workforce in an attempt to close a gaping budget gap.
The proposed budget would have laid off 91 employees, including some department heads, and cut another 80 vacant positions. But even with those cuts, it would have left the city with a $3-million deficit. The council rejected it by a 3-2 vote.
The vote means that the city will go into the new fiscal year without a budget, a violation of the city charter. But it also gives unions and management more time to hash out an alternative proposal that might avoid or limit layoffs.
The coalition of unions representing city workers brought its own proposal forward Tuesday before the council meeting. The union plan to bridge an $8-million budget gap relies in large part on an early retirement incentive plan, with an estimated $3.6 million in savings to the general fund if 50 workers agree to retire.
The council received the union proposal just before Tuesday night's meeting. Union representatives said the city administration had only provided them with the final numbers needed to craft the proposal days before. They also described what appeared to be a disorganized notification process for workers whose jobs were potentially on the line.
Council members were not prepared to immediately adopt the unions' recommendations, but they also took issue with the lack of alternatives provided by staff.
"I am not willing to go forward to pass a budget on the backs of the staff without even exploring other options. The only option we were presented was workforce reduction," said Councilman Willie O. Jones, drawing cheers from a crowd packed with city employees, many of them with jobs on the chopping block.
The audience leapt to its feet and cheered again when the council voted the budget down –- one man bellowed, "Holler!"
"At the beginning of [last] week, we were looking at these Draconian cuts as the only option," said Tyri Williams, an acting fire captain in the Compton Fire Department. The council's rejection of the budget left the door open to continued negotiations to save jobs, he said.
Mayor Eric Perrodin and Councilwoman Lillie Dobson, who cast the dissenting votes, cited the city's mandate to have a budget in place before July 1. Without a budget, the city will not have authority to pay expenses incurred in the new fiscal year.
When the council revisits the budget next week, its composition will have changed. Outgoing Councilwoman Barbara Calhoun, who cast the deciding vote against adopting the proposed budget will be replaced next week by new Councilwoman Janna Zurita.
-- Abby Sewell
Photo: Compton Mayor Eric Perrodin listens during during a City Council meeting March 1. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times